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In France, the Far Right Rises and Rises


President François Hollande is now the most unpopular French leader of the Fifth Republic. Opinion polls put his approval rating at just 21 percent. French citizens find his strict tax plans deeply upsetting and fear that his policies are weakening the economy and selling out the country to Brussels and Berlin. “Opinion poll after opinion poll reveals that the French are pessimistic about their future,” writes Jeremy Jennings, a professor at Kings College in London.

Hollande appears to be in real trouble. “Attempts to reassert his authority before the French electorate have unfailingly backfired,” Jennings writes. “Even members of his own party have taken to booing and whistling when Hollande’s name is mentioned. Not only this, but his government looks to be disintegrating…. Ministers frequently and publicly disagree with each other. Measures are announced, only to be withdrawn days later after the latest round of popular protests. The impression is one of confusion and panic.”

As Hollande slips the popularity of Marine Le Pen, the head of the far right National Front party, is growing, despite her controversial views on immigrants, Islam, and European integration. “Only last month a poll published in the left-wing Nouvel Observateur revealed that in next year’s European elections more people intended to vote for the Front National than for any other party.”

Le Pen has worked hard to take her party into the mainstream. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front, was successfully prosecuted for denying the Holocaust, a legacy that still haunts the party. When Marine proposed an alliance with the similarly anti-EU UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage said his party would never “get into bed” with the National Front and its “deeply embedded” elements of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, Le Pen has managed to broaden her support by appealing to voters’ sense of patriotism and championing strong defense and security policies, while railing against the euro (“a German invention”), the weakening of French industry and agriculture by “pot-bellied emirs” and “voracious big bosses,” and the rising number of immigrants (“itinerant thieves”) taking jobs and housing from true French. The National Front, she has suggested, should be described not as “far right” but as the “patriot party.”

It’s working. Her popularity is growing—a recent poll found that 56 percent of French voters think Le Pen is the most capable politician to take on Hollande—and so is her political influence. Sarkozy’s former prime minister has spoken publicly about the prospect of an alliance with the National Front. “We will be in power in the next 10 years,” Le Pen told Bloomberg last month.

It is disillusionment with the moderate parties of both the right (Sarkozy) and the left (Hollande) in France, occurring at the same time as an economic decline and harsh austerity imposed by Brussels, that is causing many French voters to find some comfort in Le Pen’s message of national strength and pride. Though still held at arm’s length by most voters, she is growing increasingly popular and her rise could have resounding implications for French politics, France’s role in the EU, and for the EU itself.

[Marine Le Pen photo courtesy of Kenji-Baptiste OIKAWA]

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  • Andrew Allison

    “harsh austerity imposed by Brussels”? Did you miss the EU report slamming France for failure to take the necessary measures?

  • Corlyss

    About da*ned time.

  • lukelea

    Massive third-world immigration, multi-culturalism, the mindless celebration of diversity — these are fast becoming political issues all over Europe and the British Isles, and will soon be coming to the United States no doubt. Enough happy talk. Time to get real and deal with the issues. Personally I favor an across the board moratorium on all immigration until we can assimilate and integrate the 40-to- 50 million foreign born we already have. It will take generations, two at least, maybe three, if the 1920’s are any guide. E Pluribus Unum

    • Pete

      Forget assimilation.
      What’s needed is an aggressive deportation policy both here and in Europe.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Sadly, the French have an aggressive assimilation policy, but they undercut it with their multicultural obsession. Muslims don’t assimilate, not unless you force them to, and the EUnicks don’t have the stomach to do that. Sadly, we are rapidly losing our will to do so as well.
      I am fine with a generous immigration policy (as Fred Thompson once said, “High fences, but broad gates”), but I have no tolerance at all for this multicultural nonsense…it makes assimilation impossible…

      • free_agent

        You write, “Muslims don’t assimilate, not unless you force them to”. And yet, Muslims in the US assimilate much better than those in Europe.

        Of course, most Muslim immigrants are first- or second-generation, and the first and second generations of any demographic are rarely well-integrated, with the exception of people from the higher classes of equally-developed countries. There really was a time when Italian immigrants to Manhattan learned Yiddish, because that was the language of the streets there…

        • f1b0nacc1

          America still imposes assimilation on a far higher level than is found in Europe. The rot of multiculturalism is causing this to weaken somewhat, but we are nowhere near as decayed (yet) as the Europeans.
          You are absolutely correct that in the past various immigrant cultures were often well-advised to learn the other’s native tongues. My own family has stories about that. They also have stories about being told the iron law of America…you learn English too…or else you don’t work. That is the difference…

        • Kavanna

          Muslims assimilate better here because they’re better educated, more middle class, and (above all) not put on welfare — they are expected to participate in the economy and society. More than any other European country, France has created an expensive welfare-supported fantasy land for almost all Muslims there under a certain age. It’s the *older* Muslims who are better assimilated.

    • Corlyss


      I wonder if you ever ran across this article from Atlantic back when Atlantic was worth a darn. When it was new, I tangled with a lot of young liberals in my office over the impropriety of calling attention to ANY down sides of immigration.

  • Bruce

    The populace rails against “austerity,” but what other choices do you have when you are broke and stuck in the Euro? If La Pen does attain power, she will have a very difficult time implementing her agenda. When government spends 55% of GDP, as France does, that is very, very difficult to turn around. She may not be able to do it. Thatcher and Reagan spearheaded turnarounds, but in Reagan’s case, the populace still believed in capitalism. I’m not sure the French do. They basically believe in whatever is different than is being done now, until you go to implement it.

    • free_agent

      As far as I can figure out, the French believe in dirigisme, that things don’t work unless someone with sufficient authority directs it. This has been going on for centuries. So there is a trust in large, state-directed enterprises, whether businesses or bureaucracies. It’s not exactly socialism, but it’s certainly not “free enterprise”. It smacks of feudalism, where the lord is responsible for seeing that everything gets done and every problem gets taken care of.

  • free_agent

    You write, “despite her controversial views on immigrants, Islam, and European integration”. Are these views “controversial” in the sense that the public disagrees with her, or are they “controversial” in the sense that the affluent and the chatterati don’t like them but the masses agree with her (ugh)?

    • Kavanna

      Marine Le Pen has carefully dissociated herself from her father’s colonialist and cryptofascist tendencies. She focuses on saving France proper and has never exhibited any antisemitic tendencies, at least not publicly.

      Her views are very popular among many French voters and rapidly gaining ground in the French elite. The latter won’t say so publicly.

      I personally know more than one French Jew who would vote for her. That’s saying something — such voters would never have voted for her father in million years.

  • Kavanna

    There’s not much austerity in France. It’s not like Greece, Portugal, or Ireland. It’s more like Italy, where austerity has barely started.

    What amazes me is that a similar implosion hasn’t overtaken Obama. His poll numbers continue to sink. But dissent is being crushed in Washington and even fellow Democrats can’t rebel against The Bright and Glorious Future Under The One.

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